Professor John T. Frederick

Professor John T. Frederick was born February 1, 1893, to Oliver and Mary Frederick in Corning, Iowa. His biography here is but a very small piece of what he did during his career.

John T. Frederick was born on February 1, 1893 in Corning, Iowa to Oliver and Mary Frederick. Living on a farm about two miles from Corning, John T. rode his pony to school, where he graduated from Corning High School in 1909. He remained at home the following year helping on the farm and raising money by tutoring in German and Greek. In the fall of 1910 he entered the State University of Iowa, which would later become the University of Iowa.

During his first year there he washed dishes and scrubbed floors at the YMCA to raise money. After his first year he was away for two years, serving as the principal and superintendent for the small village school in Prescott, Iowa. He also taught most classes and coached the football team, which earned him the tidy sum of $75 a month.

Finally returning to school his interest in writing and literary matters began to rise. With the encouragement of Prof. C.F. Ansley (middle, back row), and the assistance of several other students, he founded the Midland magazine in 1915. He graduated the same year, and shortly thereafter married Esther Paulus.

Following graduation, John T. accepted a position teaching there at the university while he pursued his master's degree in English, which he earned in 1917. Following graduation he accepted a position in Moorhead, Minnesota, at the State Teachers' College, where he taught from 1917-1919. From 1920-1923 he returned to the State University of Iowa, followed by a year at the University of Pittsburgh. He again returned to the State University of Iowa where he taught from 1924-1930.

In 1919 John T. and his wife purchased approximately 1400 acres of land in northern Michigan. The property was located east of the small town of Glennie in Alcona County. The land had been cutover during the great timber boom in the late 1800s and was essentially wild land. He and Esther spent considerable time clearing and plowing land, along with hauling in materials to build a small shanty and a barn. His two sons, John and James, as they grew older, assisted in the farm effort and the hauling of rocks to help build the house they would eventually live in. In 1920 John T.'s father sold his farm in Iowa and moved to Michigan to go into partnership on the farm. He and his wife would remain their until their deaths. Throughout this time John T. would spend the summer farming and then return to his teaching during the school year.

In addition to teaching, John T. authored two early books, both published by Knopf. The first, Druida, was published in 1923, and was a story about farm life in Minnesota. Most of the material for the book was drawn from his experiences teaching in Moorhead. In 1925 he published Green Bush, a novel set in Michigan, which again drew on his experiences living in the area. During this time he continued publishing The Midland, sharing editor duties with Frank Luther Mott, who later became director of the School of Journalism at the State University of Iowa and a 1938 Pulitzer Prize winner. Later on Esther assisted him in the editorial duties until the magazine closed in 1933. Esther would continue to be a sounding board for his work until her death in 1954.

In 1930 he moved to Chicago in an effort to widen the scope of the magazine. While there he took part-time jobs teaching at Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame. In 1936 he became a full professor at Northwestern in the Medill School of Journalism. In 1937 he began conducting weekly radio book reviews on the Columbia Broadcast System entitled "Of Men and Books," that lasted until 1944. In addition to all these works, he also found time to do book reviews for the Chicago Tribune.

In 1945 he moved over to teach full-time at the University of Notre Dame, where he stayed until his retirement in 1962 as chairman of the English department. Upon his retirement from Notre Dame an honorary PhD was conferred upon him by Father Theodore Hesburgh, the president of Notre Dame. While he had retired from Notre Dame, he still had not finished his teaching career. He moved with his second wife, Lucy Gertrude Paulus, back to Iowa City where he lived on the farm long owned by the Paulus family. He became a visiting professor at the University of Iowa until 1970. John T. Frederick passed away one day shy of his 82nd birthday on January 31, 1975. He, along with Esther, rest together at Springport Cemetary in Harrisville, Michigan.

It is easy to spend most of the time covering John T.'s academic and scholarly achievements, but time should also be spent on his service to the local community in Alcona County. John T. was active with the local and state Road Commissions, including a stint as the president of the state Road Association, but perhaps his most enduring achievement came with the local schools. Up until the 1950s the school system within Alcona County consisted of smaller schools that were not consolidated into one district. Many students within the county were transported outside the county to attend school. By the early to mid-1950s a movement was afoot to consolidate the schools into one centralized district, which John T. championed. In a letter to the editor in 1954 he outlined his thoughts and rationale for a consolidated district. It was in large part due to his efforts that the community finally adopted the proposal and the school system was finally consolidated in the late 1950s. A new high school was built near Lincoln, which still remains today serving the community. It would be at this high school that his son, James, would spend most of his teaching career and his four grandchildren would all attend school there.

A few years ago we were delighted to talk with Dr. Hugh Rank, a former student of John T. at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Rank was kind enough to put down some thoughts on John T. and allow us to publish them here. Our sincere appreciation to Dr. Rank for his very kind words.

On a final note, those readers interested in researching the complete works of John T. Frederick should read this article published by the late Sargent Bush. This is the most complete reference list of his works that we know of.

 

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